Representation was the overarching theme of the 76th annual Golden Globes with Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book‘s Best Picture wins. Yet, it was less inclusive than the HFPA thought it would be.
I started writing a review of the Golden Globes telecast last night.
I stopped three-quarters of the way through it, realizing that I was frustrated. I started to touch on things that I wasn’t qualified to speak on and I just bored myself. Never a good thing for a writer to admit. More importantly, I just wasn’t saying what I wanted to say.
Better, I wasn’t saying what needed to be said.
I went to bed and couldn’t sleep. My frustrations mounted.
It wasn’t really because Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Picture – Drama or that Green Book won Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. I wasn’t frustrated over those wins because the HFPA was sending a message of diversity. Of inclusion. Of respect.
Though I didn’t take those wins in that same regard, their message missed.
Green Book, at its heart is a buddy-comedy. That’s why Peter Farrelly’s name is prominently stamped all over the film, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if I rewind my memory, I reflect on why I gave Farrelly’s film a passing grade, it was specifically because the characters of Dr. Don Shirley and Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga were so strong on the screen; they were equals despite their environments and their backgrounds. This was amplified by the humor present in both the characters as well as Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali’s Golden Globe-winning performance.
In short, Green Book doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Deeper than that, Dr. Don Shirley was represented as being gay. In that era, he not only had to protect himself from severe bodily harm, but he also had to protect his identity. Yet, the rest of the story was threadbare. It was cute and I could relate to a good deal of it.
Dr. Shirley’s family, and the general audience reaction was not entirely positive, calling the film a “white savior complex” film. I am not dismissing the claim, rather it’s because I don’t see that Frank was a superior character or that he had to support the Dr. Shirley we saw on the screen. I saw a man in Dr. Shirley, trapped between multiple worlds, unable to come to terms with who he was as a person. He didn’t necessarily need Vallelonga to validate who he was as a character. He picked himself up, dusted himself off and moved on. If anything, Dr. Shirley helped Vallelonga to see his worth and ultimately, Vallelonga did the same for Dr. Shirley.
The biggest challenge with Green Book is that it glossed over Dr. Shirley’s being gay. So much for representation, right?
Only if you consider that the other big winner of last night was Bohemian Rhapsody. It features Freddie Mercury and his exploits. The biggest problem is that the underlying drama is ineffective. Rami Malek’s win for Best Actor was on point though. Interestingly, and others have already commented on this, director Bryan Singer’s name was omitted during the acceptance speech.
I wasn’t one bit miffed that they omitted his name. Point in fact, he wasn’t a producer on the film.
Given his behind the scene shenanigans, I doubt people would be mentioning his name.
If anything, the biggest omission was John Ottman’s for his brilliant editing, which saved the film.
Then Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher took to Twitter last night, congratulating the Bohemian Rhapsody production team’s win only to be trolled into issuing an apology for supporting the film.
I didn’t care for the film and I made it a point to mention that when I wrote my review in November. Despite it being a shallow and inaccurate dramatization of Freddie Mercury and his association with Queen, Rami Malek’s performance was a breath of fresh air. The technical achievements were everything I would have wanted in a movie about Freddie Mercury, if only it focused on being about Freddie Mercury and not about Queen.
But, I don’t think the people who fell in love with the film are wrong either.
Freddie Mercury is bigger than just himself. He ultimately is Queen.
In spite of including his sexual proclivities and his ultimate fate with AIDS, the film really glosses over both aspects as if they were side notes.
What hampers the film, in some people’s estimation and why Ms. Fisher encountered the bullying she did last night is because of Bryan Singer’s involvement in the film.
In fact I had a debate with a fellow critic on this very point earlier today; that we’re enabling the powerful by not talking about their crimes, while I happen to believe that everyone has a right to due process, including both the perpetrator and the victims.
I can and am willing to separate art from the artist.
In fact, Twentieth Century Fox did that for us when they fired Mr. Singer from the film, bringing on Dexter Fletcher to supervise the remainder of the production.
The DGA issued a ruling, consistent within its own boundaries that Mr. Singer was entitled to his directorial credit. Is that enabling Mr. Singer?
Why? Well, I’ll go back to my due process statement from earlier. Mr. Singer hasn’t faced a jury of his peers and I am not one to judge someone before they’ve been convicted of a crime.
Does that mean I’m not afraid of him?
No. I am afraid of him. But, we perpetrate these individuals by constantly mentioning their names in the media and issuing hate on their products simply because their names are attached to said films.
The feeling today is that we can help address the ills of society by beating everyone with a stick. My parents always joked that they would beat me whether I needed it or not when I was a kid. It didn’t mean that they did it. It was meant to keep me in line.
But, we beat each other over with a virtual stick to make a point. I sometimes feel like people’s virtual personae is that of “Chief Broom” from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: we smother one another to prove our sanity.
There are days where I feel like Howard Beale in that I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore. But, I have to. We can have a discussion without persecuting one another for our beliefs.
We should have those discussions. But we can’t just simply be pissed off all the time. Change doesn’t happen when we are upset.
We should make allowances for people to support what they want to support, whether it goes against someone else’s beliefs.
That’s ultimately why I support Bohemian Rhapsody’s win last night.
As a gay man, I must.
As a gay journalist, who wants to see more films like made, I must.
I won’t sit here and say that we should all support these films. In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, we did any way with our wallets.
That was the message the HPFA was trying to send with both wins – that representation isn’t just a matter of a character being on the screen. It is about inclusion as well.
Both are themes that we claim to all want more of yet, we say that those wins were low bars for the Globes. I get the sentiment. People want drama they can relate to, such as A Star Is Born.
I said it last year and I’ll keep repeating it until I’m blue in the face: Best Picture does not represent the physical, final product. It represents the effort that went in to producing the final product. It represents the management of the budget to get the completed project. It represents the moving parts to make the film happen.
That Bryan Singer is not a producer on Bohemian Rhapsody should be a blessing. The fact that they didn’t mention his name during the acceptance speech really is the lining in the silver cloud.
But, we cannot let go of that which threatens us.
My defense is to not let it threaten me, but to learn, grow and share with one another. I probably live in a bubble and someone will read this as me coming off like a hypocrite.
So be it.
As long as we continue to tell Hollywood that we want more Freddie Mercury’s and Dr. Don Shirley’s on the screen; that we want more The Hate U Give’s, Black Panther’s, BlacKkKlansman’s, Blindspotting’s, Love, Simon’s and other stories like these to enrich our lives and expand our horizons, to better the framework on which those stories are told so that we become less fearful of the Bryan Singer’s, the Harvey Weinstein’s and the Brett Kavanaugh’s of the world, then the HFPA’s message will hit home.
Do Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody represent the best examples? No, they don’t. I think I established that. And the gay community has said as much. Perhaps John Krasinky’s recent life lesson from Paul Thomas Anderson plays a role here: we might not want these types of films as our winners or even our losers, but we do want Hollywood to keep making these types of stories and to get them better.
I am not advocating for love or acceptance. I am advocating for patience, for understanding and for communication.
If we can achieve that through our art, we are all the better for it. This is why art is subjective.
I am going to bed a better person. I will sleep well and, thanks Sandra Oh, but I don’t need the antacids.
PS: Glenn Close’s win was an absolute surprise and I am so happy for her.
Oh, and “Tag, you’re it!”